Utility Performance Report: How Michigan Utilities Stack Up on Renewables and Emissions

In December, CUB released its latest edition of the annual Utility Performance Report. We already did a blog post summarizing some of the major findings in that report, but now we’d like to touch upon another area of the report that seems relevant given Gov. Whitmer’s recent State of the State address: the environmental impacts created by Michigan’s utilities when they produce energy, and how those impacts compare to utilities in the rest of the country.

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CUB Helping Craft Rules For A Changing Grid

Source: Dori. License.

The electric grid is changing quickly, moving away from a centralized system of thermal power plants to a more distributed and renewable grid. One of CUB’s priorities is to make sure utility customers get a fair share of the benefits of this process or change, while also not having to cover an undue amount of the costs. 

A perfect example of how that process is playing out is going on right now at the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the organization that operates the electric grid for most of the Midwest and central U.S., including most of Michigan. CUB of Michigan, representing public consumer advocates, recently submitted comments on a proposed rule change for MISO that could help preserve reliability as the type of electricity generation sources in MISO’s region continues to shift. So far, it appears that MISO is receptive to the ideas we suggested to make their proposal better, and we believe consumers will benefit as a result.

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DTE Prepay Program Rejected by Michigan Regulators

Photo by Brendan Wood, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

 

Good news for Michigan utility customers! In a November post we explained the eyebrow-raising proposal from DTE to sell customers on a program where they could prepay a fixed amount for their electricity service, but be suddenly disconnected from service if the prepaid amount ran out. At its last meeting of 2022, on Dec. 21, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) denied DTE’s proposed program and also refused DTE’s request to waive several important consumer protection rules that would have stood in the way of the program.

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CUB of Michigan Releases 2022 Utility Performance Report

This year utility customers in Detroit protested shabby treatment by DTE. Lawmakers said the problem of unaccountable utility companies is big enough that consumers need more protection and introduced bills to create new laws that would penalize utilities and compensate customers for long power outages.

Is the service from Michigan’s utilities really that bad? Are these reactions exaggerations? For each of the last few years, CUB has put out its Utility Performance Report to put context around the service that Michigan utility customers receive (Last year’s report available here).

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Beware Prepay Programs Put Forth By DTE (And Other Utilities)

Photo by Brendan Wood, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

DTE wants to sign up customers for a new (voluntary) program in which they would prepay for electricity, and then face near immediate shutoff if the money they put in runs out. Fortunately, an administrative law judge has agreed with testimony filed by CUB and the Michigan Department of Attorney General and recommended that the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) reject this proposed program.

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Michigan Regulators Issue Promising Order for Distribution Grid Planning

On Sept. 8, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), in an order, gave a stark assessment of the state of Michigan’s grid that likely rings true with the tens of thousands of ratepayers that have lost power over the last few weeks: “Put bluntly, Michigan’s distribution reliability is inadequate, and current plans for improvements are insufficient.”

The order is the latest action in the MPSC’s proceeding where it is requesting the utilities lay out their plans for strengthening the grid, reducing the high level of power outages in the state and moving toward a more metric-based, sophisticated approach to distribution grid planning (for more background see previous posts from CUB here and here).

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MPSC Hears From Frustrated DTE Customers in Detroit Hearing

The Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) Aug. 22 hearing in Detroit was a rare opportunity for DTE residents to express their frustration with paying high rates for electric service that is only getting more and more unreliable in the face of worsening severe weather.

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New Midwestern Transmission Line Buildout Could Save Billions in Electricity Costs

It is often talked about how renewable energy, chiefly wind and solar, has increasingly become one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation, meaning there is not a tradeoff between clean energy and affordable energy. That is overall true, which is why CUB tends to push Michigan utilities toward a greater use of renewables.

But in practice, accessing clean and affordable power is much more complicated than just building more wind and solar. Renewable energy needs to be connected with transmission lines from where it is generated to where people use electricity. In particular, the renewable energy that has the best output relative to costs, like wind in the Great Plains, tends to be concentrated in rural areas far from population centers.

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CUB Calls for Smarter Spending on the Grid in DTE Electric Rate Case

Source: JK Nair

Summer is here, and so is the season of mass power outages. Widespread, prolonged blackouts have struck American Electric Power customers in our neighbor to the south, and outages affecting thousands of customers recently occurred in Michigan. Of course, when you are dealing with thousands of miles of power lines, some outages are inevitable, especially in stormy weather.

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Settlement to Lead to More Resource Diversity for UP Utility Upper Michigan Energy Resources

Menominee, Mich., located in UMERC’s service territory. Source: Bobak Ha’Eri. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

CUB, the Michigan Attorney General and other parties have reached a settlement with the Upper Peninsula utility Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. (UMERC) that the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) expects will help confront the greater UP’s problem of overreliance on natural gas (U-21081).

The settlement, approved by the MPSC at its May 12 meeting, allows UMERC to move ahead with its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the MPSC-required filing in which the utility shows what resources it will use to serve its customers over 5-year, 10-year, 15-year and 20-year time horizons. The IRP represents “a win for customers across the UP” because it “provides valuable resource diversity” for the region, MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said at the Commission’s meeting.

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